“We cannot trust the DAR to distribute the lands as it is clearly an instrument of the Cojuangco-Aquinos to perpetuate their control over our lands.” – ULWU
By RONALYN OLEA
Braving the 37-degree summer heat, more than 200 Hacienda Luisita farmers and supporters started their caravan to Manila this morning.
Dubbed as “Lakbayan para sa Libreng Pamamahagi ng Lupa sa Hacienda Luisita” marks the first year of the Supreme Court decision ordering the distribution of some 6,000-hectare sugar plantation controlled by the family of President Benigno Cojuangco Aquino III.
Led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura UMA, Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) and the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU), the farmers started their march from Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac province. As of this afternoon, the marchers have reached San Nicolas Church in Capas, Tarlac. They are expected to arrive and spend the night in Angeles City in Pampanga.
“It has been a year since the Supreme Court decided to distribute the Hacienda and we are back on the streets to continue our fight for the free distribution of lands,” ULWU chairman Lito Bais said in a statement.
“We cannot trust the DAR to distribute the lands as it is clearly an instrument of the Cojuangco-Aquinos to perpetuate their control over our lands,” Bais said.
In the same vein, Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano said: “There is no truth to the Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) claim that the distribution of Hacienda Luisita is on track. Twelve months after the SC decision, farmworker-beneficiaries are still waiting in vain to own the lands that they have tilled for decades.”
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), mandated to implement the high court decision, released in February the final list of beneficiaries.
A week after, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes said farm workers will not get any land if they will not sign a written commitment to pay for the land and to make it productive.
“As long as Aquino controls the DAR and the sham Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program remains, the farm workers should be ready for another protracted battle to reclaim Hacienda Luisita from the Cojuangcos,” KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella said.
Challenge to candidates
The famers also challenged senatorial candidates to replace the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) with “a new and genuine agrarian reform law to realize the free distribution of Hacienda Luisita.”
“The bogus CARP is the biggest stumbling block to Hacienda Luisita’s distribution,” Marbella said. He maintained that “the CARP was crafted by the Cojuangcos” to evade the distribution of the sugar plantation to its farm workers.
In 1989, during the administration of the late president Corazon Aquino, the Cojuangcos made use of the stock distribution option (SDO) scheme of the CARP to evade actual land distribution.”
“Today, the Cojuangcos are making use of the provisions of the CARP to deny the farm workers of their hard-earned legal victory,” Marbella said.
He cited the very rigid attestation requirements imposed by the CARP extension with reforms or CARPER.
Section 5 of the CARPER states that “only farmers (tenants or lessees) and regular farmworkers actually tilling the lands, as certified under oath by the Barangay Agrarian Reform Council (BARC) and attested under oath by the landowners, are the qualified beneficiaries. The intended beneficiary shall state under oath before the judge of the city or municipal court that he/she is willing to work on the land to make it productive and to assume the obligation of paying the amortization for the compensation of the land and the land taxes thereon.”
“This is now being used by the DAR as the highly unacceptable ‘legal basis’ in their inclusion of Cojuangco loyalists and dummies in their fabricated list of beneficiaries and the anti-farm worker promissory note,” Marbella said.
The KMP leader noted that “only Makabayan senatorial candidate Teddy Casiño has a clear platform on genuine agrarian reform.”
“We challenge senatorial aspirants, including those in the administration ticket and the Cojuangco-influenced UNA, to replace the sham CARPER with a new and genuine agrarian reform program. If they are elected, they should be ready to defy party lines and side with the peasantry in the struggle for social justice,” Marbella said.
The farmers are expected to arrive in Manila on April 26, where they will hold a protest vigil at DAR. They will march to Malacañang on April 27 to bring their demands right at the doorstep of the President.